Book cover photo courtesy of John Nichols Gallery

Images of America sequel focuses on SP from 1930 to 1960

April 30, 2010
Santa Paula News

Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson found that when she asked for photographs and remembrances there were many, many, many out there to choose from - as a matter of fact nearly 1,000 photos offered by more than 100 people. Henderson’s request and her own innate sense of history has resulted in “Images of America: Santa Paula 1930-1960,” her second book for Arcadia Publishing that details the city history and those who were firmly woven into the fabric of the community they helped to weave.

A visual history of how the city settled into its own middle age near the century’s mid mark, the sequel to Henderson’s “Images of America Santa Paula 1870-1930” details the Depression decade and the home front years of World War II and the Korean War. It was a prosperous time of citrus cultivation and oil production that drew new families and businesses, while widening circles of friends with common interests.

Henderson has Santa Paula roots dating to 1872, and her family still farms part of its initial 640-acre homestead. Arcadia Publishing notes as “the founding president of the Santa Paula Historical Society, Henderson’s link to the city’s past, along with her ancestors’ reminiscences of early times, have sparked her passion to share hometown history” for this book, primarily culled from the pages of the defunct Santa Paula Chronicle.

Chapters focus on Main Street through the 1950s, beyond Main Street with agriculture and oil, the town’s people and their marriages and families, education, community leaders, those who served in war, and how Santa Paulans relaxed and partied and what pursuits they enjoyed.

Henderson didn’t hesitate when asked if she has a favorite chapter: “I really don’t, I was pleased how they all came out... everybody seems to be very pleased,” as evidenced by numerous notes the book has generated. “The neatest thing is nobody found any errors or omissions and that’s very good,” said the author of several other books centered on Santa Paula’s past.

This volume also contains more about the importance families of Mexican descent or immigration played in the further development of Santa Paula, the result of Angela Dominguez’s “pushing and prodding.” Without Dominguez, Henderson said the book’s “interest and diversity would be severely lacking.”

Henderson believes the appeal of such books is a link to “a past you wish you had perhaps, but it’s just history, roots,” best appreciated by those with ties to Santa Paula. Ironically, Henderson found the shallower the roots the harder the dig.

“This book took longer to get the photos... for the first book we had 90 percent of the photos in society archives. It took longer for people to look in the box, go to the attic” to find a photo - and a memory - they hoped would be suitable for the second book.

Some of the submitted photos were almost duplicates of others, but “The main thing is to know the people in the photo, get the names,” important to community personalization. “The first criterion was it must be interesting, something people can relate to, make the connection... just beautiful scenery only was not appropriate.”

Comical images, though rare among the 332 photographs selected, were greatly appreciated, such as Anita Tate’s contribution of a 1950 tennis photo of her late father Ted Sharp wearing old painter pants with a cigarette dangling from his mouth as he serves up another ace. “It was a huge picture we had to reduce down,” but it remains huge in Henderson’s affection as “my favorite, if I had to choose a favorite.”

Although the expert on all things historical Santa Paula, Henderson did find some surprises “unknown to me,” such as the art camp of famous painter Robert Clunie, and the Rancho del Oso Guest Ranch. Owned and operated for decades by Mac and Mattie Harvey, the 160-acre guest ranch was subdivided for development in 1969.

Mike Harvey offered the photo of his late grandparents’ ranch, and Henderson said, “It was a real surprise that the original home is still there,” nestled along Highway 150/Santa Paula-Ojai Road, an almost mirror image of the vintage photo in the book.

Well-known photographer Timothy Teague visited Henderson “and brought this huge box of photos,” vintage proofs taken by his father, noted photographer Dana Teague. Dana Teague Jr., she added, also contributed “a wonderful photo.”

Flipping through the book’s pages reveals many of those still living in Santa Paula, from those showed as infants, perhaps now with grandchildren of their own, to people long retired but still active in the community. The book took about 18 months, although Henderson noted daughter Ann said “It felt like a decade!”

Will Henderson do another book covering the decades from 1960 to say 2000? “Oh no,” she said with a laugh. “That’s a boring time!” too recent for her historical mindset.

Copies of “Images of America: Santa Paula 1930-1960” are $21.99 each and available at the Santa Paula Art Museum and the California Oil Museum. Copies are also available online at and Arcadia Publishing (


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